Ask Megan: How should I ask for a pay rise? - Women's Agenda

Ask Megan: How should I ask for a pay rise?

I have been reading on Women’s Agenda the discussion about the gender pay gap. I feel like I am under paid. How do I ask for a pay rise?

Lisa, Project Manager, Information Technology


There is certainly a lot of discussion around at the moment about the gender pay gap. We know that women are paid 17.5% less than their male counterparts. We also know that women are less likely to ask for a pay rise than men. We think that if we keep our heads down and work hard that our work will speak for itself and we will be rewarded accordingly. We don’t want to appear pushy. And sometimes we are just plain scared to ask (it’s not easy, after all). Unfortunately, that can all lead to lower pay, and to feeling undervalued for the contribution you are making to the business.

If you feel that you deserve a pay rise, here are some things to consider before you go and ask for a meeting.

  1. Understand your company’s process – all organisations have different processes in place for remuneration. If you don’t already know, find out what this is in your business. There is usually a cycle where people are reviewed and where salary changes are implemented. You need to think about when is the best time for your request. If you are out of the cycle, consider whether it is more appropriate to wait until the next review period, or if you have evidence that you are so out of whack with your peers that you know you have a strong case now. It is all about maximising your chances for success, and as we know, timing is everything.
  2. Build your business case – the easiest answer for most managers to give when an employee asks for a pay rise, is a flat no. You can be given the company line of ‘no budget’, or ‘you are out of the cycle, ask me next year’, or ‘you are paid in line with everyone else’. These responses are very common. To effectively ask for a raise you need to have a strong, documented business case. Include areas like; your achievements against your key performance indicators; additional projects you have delivered over and above your role; positive feedback from peers, your boss or superiors on your work; sales you may have delivered or contributed too; areas where you have saved the company money and added to the bottom line. Look up the latest salary surveys (they are usually published on recruitment websites) and see where you objectively sit in your specific role and industry. And use any evidence you may have about where you are placed in your peer group. The more effort you can put into your business case, the more prepared you will be to have a robust, unbiased and unemotional discussion with your manager.
  3. Have you been on leave? If you have had time out of the business for maternity leave (or other leave), then you may not have received a pay rise during that period. If that is true then you have a strong case to make to your manager for your pay to be recalibrated against your peer group in the next cycle (or immediately if possible).
  4. Have an alternate strategy. If you get a legitimate no, or you get asked to wait until the next review cycle, then have a back up plan. What else can you ask for that does not require your manager to go to his/her boss asking for more salary funding. Would you like to work more flexibly, perhaps a day from home each week? Is there a development program that you have wanted to go on? Now is the time to ask. Onsite parking, getting a coach, special project work that will build your skills (not on top of your day job) and other requests can build your capability, increase your worth, and make your life easier. They are all worth thinking about. Have a back up plan prepared in case your first request is unsuccessful.

If you have done all of this, and still feel that your organisation is undervaluing your contribution, then it is time to reflect on whether your talents may be better utilized somewhere else. You need to be objective about this, but sometimes this situation can be the motivation we need to take our next career step. If this turns out to be the case, do your research, plan your move, mitigate your risks, and take the next step with courage.

Got a burning question about your career, leadership, balance or how to create the success you are after? Send your questions, along with your first name, role and industry, to [email protected] and each week Megan will choose one to address in detail.

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